Over 75 neighbors gathered in the cold air in front of a three-decker at 712 East Sixth Street to oppose a proposal for a new 44 foot, three-story addition to the back of the building. In attendance was John Allison from the mayor’s office, Steve Harvey (he does it all Miss Universe, Family Feud, his talk show) from Michael Flaherty’s office, one of the developers Matt O’Hara and his lawyer. Evidently, because of the new zoning laws, the project falls within the regulations (Article 68) but the project still needed to have an abutters meeting and the Zoning Board of Appeals because of An Interim Planning Overlay District (IPOD). What’s an IPOD – well, it helps ensure development projects seeking approval in the near future meet the goals of the longer-term planning or rezoning process – rather than outmoded development patterns.
Important but slightly boring background information:
Last November Article 68 expanded to all of South Boston. This was intended to stop systemize new development rules that would be fair to neighborhood residents, property owners, and developers. The new zoning hoped to level the development playing field by regularizing the rules to allow for reasonable growth, while at the same time eliminating the need to resort to variances and the unpredictability of the zoning appeal process. Article 68 bascially eliminated minimum lot size requirements and replaced previously existing low-density use restrictions with a single all-encompassing multifamily district. And here’s the loophole – large lots, where development had been limited by use or minimum lot size requirements, can now become the sites for development projects that don’t really fit in the neighborhood. i.e. the house on M Street. From this example, City Councilor At-Large Michael Flaherty urged the Boston Planning and Development Agency to create the IPOD –“ in order to subject certain higher unit count proposed projects to increased public review, while your staff assesses the strengths and weaknesses of Article 68 as implemented.” Sort of like a neighborhood watch dog.
Well, these neighbors are watching. Residents voiced concerns over things like overcrowding, potential noise on the decks, and lack of sunlight the addition would create. But the overall consensus was that this could cause a chain reaction with other homeowners building out the last bit of square inch. No more yards. Every bit of open space could potentially be built upon. There was a question about parking to which the developer informed that he would be renting the units not selling them. When asked what he would be getting for rents, he said he hadn’t thought about that yet. (Oh really?) Another concerned resident asked if the developers would be making the building into a huge Airbnb. Hmmmm…..
One neighbor who lives at 706 East Sixth read a lovely letter that she wrote about how wonderful the neighborhood is and how it’s made up of hard working people who look out for one another and by adding on this giant addition it would ruin the neighborhood. “Is it too much to ask for some open space a few trees,” she asked. The crowd applauded the woman and the developer just shook his head.
Another neighbor threw his hands up in despair and asked why do we even have these meetings if nothing is going to change. The developer and his lawyer said new plans would be filed with the ISD and the plans would have less bedrooms than originally proposed but it would still be the same size. (Umm….thanks for nothing.)
John Allison from the mayor’s office informed the residents that the mayor’s office would not support the IPOD the way it is now. So now we wait. If you oppose or support this project you are encouraged to let your voice be heard. You can email John Allison at firstname.lastname@example.org
In other IPOD news. Two single families at 15 and 17 Swallow Street were demolished without proper notification to the abutters. Which is a huge no-no! The IPOD may have been in effect when the permit was issued for the project which means at the very least an abutters meeting should have been conducted. And the abutters should have been informed about demolition. Well, what can be done now? Nothing! The houses are gone and the developer wants to put two four-story townhouses with parking – and for aesthetic reasons, the developer is asking the City of Boston to move a fire hydrant. Honestly? More to follow on this.